The Healer Problem, Part 1: Scaling

In my last post, I promised you I’d be taking a close look at the many factors that affect healer gameplay as an expansion progresses. And I got started on tackling the most theoretically challenging aspect – the throughput value of increased Spirit – right away. It seemed like a non sequitur, probably, but it was the cornerstone of an entire analysis on the influence of gear on healer throughput. In this post, I’ll be expanding on that analysis, to explore the magnitude of effect that stat growth has on healer throughput, and also to look forward to Legion with what little we know.

This will be a graph-heavy post, so if you are math-averse, I’m really sorry, but I’m not sure there’s any cleaner way to express the information.

I’ll just jump straight into the Big Picture, and drill down from there, highlighting a few interesting points along the way.

The Big Picture: Warlords Scaling

I turned to my heavily modded version of HealerCalcs to estimate the percent throughput increase that healers have experienced over the course of the expansion. I won’t bore you with the details of how I generated the data, other than to note that I used my first-week-of-raiding iLvl of 643 as the starting point, and the max iLvl recorded for healers on Warcraft Logs at the moment I’m making this post, 745, as the end point.

Here is the graph I generated, plotting throughput increase as a function of iLvl:

Throughput increase as a function of iLvl over the Warlords expansion

Figure 1: Throughput increase as a function of iLvl over the Warlords expansion

The green line at the top represents the combined effects of all of our gear on our potential maximum throughput. You can see that it’s just over 400%, which means that our HPS now at the end of HFC is potentially 5 times as strong as our HPS was at the start of Highmaul. 

We turn now to our expert healing correspondent, Gwen Stefani, for her reaction:

this shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Figure 2: Didn’t you know that Hollaback Girl was all about the perils of power creep and its effects on the healing role?

And that pretty much sums up my opinion, as well. You’ve heard me rant here, or on the podcast with Hamlet, about how healing gameplay is most rich and exciting when we are weak compared to the incoming damage, and how it degenerates when we are strong. I just don’t think a 5X increase in our healing capacity (or over double the increase in player health) is fun, and I think that it leads to a lot of the problems we see at the end of an expansion – a reduced number of healer spots in raids, the spiky and spammy nature of healing, the loss of any consideration for efficiency.

The yellow line at the bottom is my estimation of Spirit’s contribution to throughput, taken from my previous post. And the purple line is showing the rest of our stats’ influence on our throughput: Intellect, Spellpower, and the 5 secondary stats (Critical Strike, Haste, Mastery, Multistrike, and Versatility). Those two lines, when multiplied together, create the green (total throughput) line.

The red line is there for reference: it is the increase in a player’s health pool as they gear up.

There are a lot of little intricacies hiding out in this graph, though, that might be worth exploring. And you know how I love exploring intricacies, so…

The Medium Picture: Stamina and Intellect

The green and red lines are the two most important to keep in mind for describing the way healing has felt during this expansion. While players’ health pools are still larger than any single heal a healer can cast (Selfless Healer/Libram of Vindication Paladins excepted), our capacity to heal a player up from damage rises at a much higher rate than that player’s health pool does.  We’re not literally healing a target to full health in a single GCD (again, Selfless Healer/Libram of Vindication Paladins excepted – I need an acronym for this. SHLOVPE?), we are much more adept at handling the incoming damage than we were at the start of the expansion.

I’ve made this point before, but here is a great place to mention it again – player health acts as a “cap” of sorts on the amount of damage an enemy mob can deal with its attacks. As healers continue to gain power at a tremendous rate, the damage each attack deals can’t really go up at a similar rate. All the encounter devs can do is make the abilities deal that damage to more total targets, or more frequently, and in either case this leads to what I call “degenerate gameplay” of spam-and-AoE. So looking at what causes this discrepancy will help us understand why our gameplay always ends up deteriorating at the end of an expansion.

The main driver behind our power growth – and the reason it’s so huge compared to health pool growth – is the simple fact that healing scales with 7 stats. Intellect/Spellpower, Spirit, and all 5 secondaries contribute in some proportion to our total throughput. Meanwhile, player health rises with only a single stat – Stamina.

Since Intellect and Stamina are both primary stats, we should expect that they scale the same, and that Stam and Int cancel each other out. But I always like to check these things. I’m thorough like that.

Figure x: Intellect/Spellpower and Stamina scaling in Warlords. These primary stats tracked pretty closely, and it's safe in future to just use the combined secondaries & Spirit's growth to approximate power growth relative to health pools.

Figure 3: Intellect/Spellpower and Stamina scaling in Warlords. These primary stats tracked pretty closely, and it’s safe in future to just use the combined secondaries & Spirit’s growth to approximate power growth relative to health pools.

As you can see, Int and Stamina track one another pretty closely. Int lags behind very slightly, because base Int (1130-ish) is a much higher proportion of our total Int than our base Stam (890) is of our total Stam. But it’s a very, very small difference. When we’re looking at this topic in the future, and want to isolate how healing outpaces health pool growth over an expansion, we can just leave Intellect/Spellpower out entirely, and consider only the secondary stats and Spirit as our scaling factors.

When we do this for the data presented in Figure 1, we get:

Figure x: Healer power growth relative to player health pool growth

Figure 4: Healer power growth relative to player health pool growth

Over the course of Warlords, our healing grew 133%, or 2.33X, more than our raid’s health pool did. This is wholly attributable to the influence of Spirit and our secondary stats, and is the primary thing to measure when considering the negative gameplay effects of gear scaling.

The Detailed View: Secondary Stats and Spirit

But how much of the contribution comes from each source of power growth? Let’s drill down a little further.

Throughput increase of individual stats, as a function of iLvl

Figure 5: Throughput increase of individual stats, as a function of iLvl

In this graph, I’ve split out the Int/Spellpower contribution (blue line), and am comparing it here to the impact of Spirit, of all 5 secondaries combined (pink), the contribution of a favored secondary stat (green), and the contribution of an average secondary stat (orange). Some things to note:

  • Spirit is a little over half as powerful as Intellect and Spellpower!
  • All the secondaries combined are about 2/3rds as powerful as Spirit!
  • If you stack a bunch of stat points into your favourite Secondary, let’s say it’s Haste here since we’re using a Druid profile at least nominally, it gains you like a 20% throughput increase over the course of the entire expansion. That sounds huge, but remember that our overall throughput actually went up by 400%, so your favourite secondary only explains about 5% of your total throughput increase.
  • If you just shoved a random-ish amount of stat points into each Secondary, you get like 10% out of each secondary over the course of the expansion, or about 2.5% of your total throughput increase. The benefit of using the right secondaries is actually pretty low.

The first two points are the big takeaway here. Spirit is incredibly powerful, and it was the primary driver in our healing power’s growth relative to health pools. This was a problem we had all expansion as Spirit was mostly budgeted to trinkets, and trinkets were a bit mishandled. Secondaries themselves are a very, very small part of our overall throughput, and really aren’t the source of our problems.

The Side-Eye View: The Value of Optimizing Secondary Stats

Theorycrafters spend a lot of time and effort trying to determine which secondary stat is the best, and how to gear/gem/enchant. I have never spent much time working on stat weights as I personally don’t find the question to be that interesting, but when I was running these numbers and interpreting the data that led to me writing those last two dot points in the above list, I was very surprised by the findings. I guess I’d always assumed that using the right secondaries overall was a big difference in your throughput, and these numbers looked a little low to me, despite having agreed with Hamlet’s post about the overblown importance of the “right” secondary stats. Because I am perpetually distracted by shiny things, I thought I’d take a side trip to look a little closer at this phenomenon.

The very first graph in this post was generated using an essentially random smattering of secondary stats, and they ended up being pretty evenly distributed. This would be a fantastic plan if we assumed that every secondary stat affected our throughput by an identical amount – if Haste was equal to Mastery was equal to Crit, etc. (Compare 1.25 to 1.4 x 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.1 x 1.1; the former is slightly larger just by the way multiplication works.) But secondary stats don’t all affect our throughput by an identical amount, so I wanted to see how much of a difference it would make if I switched from a mostly-even distribution to a more optimized distribution.

So I reallocated my secondary stats from my gear profile to more resemble what a real Druid might do – 50% of available stats into Haste, 25% into Mastery, 12.5% each into Crit and Multistrike, and 0% into Versatility – and ran the numbers for Figure 1 again, expecting to see a fairly significant jump in my overall throughput from massively restructuring my gear:

Reshuffling secondary stats to a more optimal distribution does not meaningfully affect our throughput

Figure 6: Reshuffling secondary stats to a more optimal distribution does not meaningfully affect our throughput

I was pretty astonished. We went from a 403% increase with quite suboptimal stats to only a 407% increase – a whole 1% more throughput – from a pretty significant stat shuffle.

I mean … obviously for players who are min-maxing to get the most out of their character that they can, this is still a worthwhile pursuit. And for the rest of us, it’s – like Hamlet said, and as Talarian showed from a DPS point of view here – more of a messaging device than a throughput device. The right stat does improve your healing, by a tiny but not imperceptible amount, and it’s pretty easy to just gem and enchant for the right stats once you know what they are. But a lot of players – myself most definitely included – could get a lot more out of practicing their class (or improving their UI or reading a boss guide) than out of running to sims every time they get a new item and working out whether they should change their enchants.

The other conclusion from this is that, because Intellect is so much stronger than secondary stats are (about 3x as powerful as all the secondary stats combined, see Figure 5 above), iLvl is by far the most important statistic on our gear that we should be worried about. Secondaries can help us pick between two identical-iLvl items, but we probably shouldn’t be taking an item with a lower iLvl just because it has on it a preferred secondary stat. This was something we all suspected, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect.

The Long View: Legion Changes that Affect Scaling

Despite being in the Alpha test for Legion, I still don’t actually know a whole lot about what the expansion is going to look like when it goes live. But we have some tidbits about what is changing; here’s a list of the ones we know about that might affect these power growth issues, one way or another:

  1. Spirit has been removed from items, and mana regen is fixed at 4.0% max mana per 5 seconds (6400 mp5 at level 100, 44000 mp5 at level 110)
  2. Multistrike will no longer exist
  3. Intellect is removed from rings and perhaps necklaces (getting inconsistent results just browsing the gear that’s datamined on Wowhead)
  4. Raid-wide buffs will no longer exist. Some classes will be able to buff a limited number of players, but I’m not including these.
  5. Secondary stats may be allocated differently in Legion, so that secondary stats do not grow as much over the course of the expansion
  6. Legendary items may provide powerful effects that aren’t easily expressed in terms of stat growth
  7. Artifact Power, Artifact Traits, and Relics are all going to increase player power

Some of these effects are unknowable – we don’t have full details yet on points 5-7, for example – but others are quantifiable.

I’ve bolded the Spirit information because it is a big freaking deal and it’s not something that a lot of people seemed to have noticed yet. I do want to cover how mana will work in Legion without Spirit, but that’s going to have to wait for another post. For right now, it’s important to consider that the loss of Spirit is the loss of a very significant scaling factor for healers. Just looking back at Figure 1, our throughput increase will drop from that green line to the purple line just from that change alone.

The removal of Multistrike will also slightly reduce our scaling problems. It shouldn’t affect the total number of secondary stats we’re allocated, but now we’re only splitting our secondary stat points between 4 categories instead of 5. The biggest effect is just removing a multiplicative factor – 1.25 is larger than 1.254 – resulting in less snowbally behavior as we continue to accumulate gear. But also note that the loss of Multistrike means that it’s probably going to be hard to avoid having to take Versatility, and points into Versatility are typically worth less for us than points into the other stats. The overall effect of this will be quite small, since the contribution from secondary stats is already so small, but it will be another downward pull on our power growth.

Losing Intellect on rings (and necklaces?) has the potential to be a bit of a bigger deal, because Int is so strong for us, but rings and necklaces don’t really have a lot of stats on them anyway, so it’s a small change to a powerful stat. Just to check whether Int and Stam would still track in Legion, I quickly took the Int from rings and necklaces out of my original Figure 3:

Intellect/Spellpower vs. Stamina scaling in Legion will still be pretty close despite losing raid buffs and Int on rings/trinkets.

Figure 7: Intellect/Spellpower vs. Stamina scaling in Legion will still be pretty close despite losing raid buffs and Intellect on rings/trinkets.

It does obviously make a difference, but it’s not a huge one. If base Stamina and base Intellect stay proportionally similar in Legion as they are in Warlords, we shouldn’t see too much of a reduction in our scaling from this one change.

Losing raid buffs, however, should make the effects of the stats we do gain on our gear a little more prominent, just because we “start out” with less of it.

Legion Scaling Predictions

With these four mostly-knowable things in mind, I decided to re-run my original Healer Power Growth model after making some key Legion-based assumptions:

  • Nothing is fundamentally changing about the way any of the stats work
  • We will see another two-raid-tier expansion like Warlords, and will see our iLvl rise a similar amount to Warlords
  • We’ll start at around 850 iLvl, and finish around 955 iLvl
  • No sources of mana gain from gear
  • No Multistrike
  • No raid buffs
  • No Intellect on rings or neckpieces

The result is a much flatter power curve over the course of the expansion:

Healer Power Growth Legion (Projected)

Figure 8: Predicted throughput increases as a function of iLvl for Legion

An overall growth of 293%, or about 4X throughput, is still pretty high. Though if we continue to assume that Stamina and Intellect/Spellpower will track similarly over the course of Legion, then the pink line describes how our healing will increase relative to our raid’s health pool – a much smaller 60% increase (or 1.6X throughput) to our healing. That is a big improvement.

But it’s a larger secondary-stat contribution than we had in Warlords! This is probably from losing the raid buffs and because, if the secondary stat rating-to-percentage conversions I found for level 110 characters are accurate, our ratings are taking less of a hit, so we’re starting out with a larger amount of secondaries, and gaining a lot more than we gained in Warlords as we gear up.

I’ll note that Celestalon’s post about secondary scaling had the following benchmark in it:

The % of a tank’s healthbar that you can heal per second went up over the course of Warlords, by a massive amount (probably about 3x). We don’t want it to not go up (it gives a good feeling of progression), but it should only go up a little (probably to 1.5x).

Celestalon

That 3X idea for Warlords was a bit high – it was really more like 2.3X from the combination of Spirit and secondary stats (see Figure 4). But we’re pretty close to his new benchmark in Legion already with this 1.6X increase from secondaries without even changing the way they scale.

However, we’re still overshooting it, and having a 1.6X increase from secondaries alone leaves us no room for things like introducing crazy powerful trinkets/Legendaries, Artifact Traits, or even for reintroducing some limited mana regen on gear or from tier set bonuses. So just for funsies, I thought I’d look at what might happen if we halved the amount of secondaries we get per iLvl, and see how our scaling would look. It’s a complete spitball by me – I have no idea what they’re really going to do with secondary stats – but I just wanted to see how drastic of an effect this might have:

Figure x: Predicted power growth with a halved rate of secondary stat growth

Figure 9: Predicted power growth with a halved rate of secondary stat growth

As a result of halving our secondary stat acquisition, we go down to a 3X increase in healing power over the course of the expansion, and only a 22% increase in healing from secondaries alone. This leaves ample room for Legendaries, Artifacts, trinkets, and set bonuses to boost our power without overshooting Celestalon’s target.

Conclusion

Combining multiplicative factors with exponential scaling results in undesirable power growth over the course of an expansion. One obvious solution would seem to be, “just go linear with stat gains”, but I think the main reason we don’t see that happening – besides whatever technical issues it might pose, with WoW being 10 years old and having nearly 1000 iLvls of gear – is that linear growth would feel vastly different. There’d be a very real concern that linear growth might mean that players don’t feel compelled to attempt the next tier of raiding because its item rewards aren’t worth the additional difficulty. (I mean, we reportedly saw this behavior in Warlords with exponential gear, which is why we saw a 5-iLvl bump to Blackrock Foundry’s gear rewards a couple weeks after its release. So it’s not infeasible that linear growth would also incur this same problem.)

Also, I think there may be some value in letting players get more stronger during the final tier than during the initial tier, if the final tier is going to last so long – it’s at least a source of amusement. But really, a linear model and a shorter final tier would probably be just fine, at least from my perspective. Hamlet and I discussed the idea of “going linear” for at least one stat – Spirit – on our podcast, and this could have even been an alternative to eliminating the stat entirely.

Changing to a linear growth model is not really necessary, though. The big contributor to our inflated healing power this expansion was Spirit. While not every class valued Spirit at the start of Warlords, the changes to Mistweaver Monks and Holy Paladins encouraged those classes to become Spirit-lovers, and I think perhaps the Disc Priest’s Repudiation of War was meant to serve a similar function (but if so, I think it has failed). So even if a HPal or Monk’s throughput-from-Spirit curve started out very, very flat, after these changes it probably followed a similar trajectory to the traditionally Spirit-loving Druid. With Spirit being gone in Legion, we’re mostly on our way to having a more sane growth model than we’ve seen in a long while.

I know that it seems overly optimistic to end a blog post with “Legion will fix it” but in this case, you guys, I think Legion really will fix it. There’s still a lot of moving parts we don’t understand, about Artifacts, Legendaries, set bonuses and trinkets, that have the potential to skew our power growth for the worse, but depending on how the secondary scaling changes are implemented, the devs may have a lot of room to work with to still give us powerful items without breaking our game. At the very least, I think we can see that this issue is on the devs’ minds, that they recognize it’s a problem, and that they want to fix it. That’s all I could really ask for!

 

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14 Responses to The Healer Problem, Part 1: Scaling

  1. Novembrex says:

    If the removal of multistrike leads to an increase in players using versatility, will that provide any meaningful survival increase as players’ item level increase over the course of the expansion?

    Also, is there any indication as to how strong absorbs will be in Legion? Increases in reactive throughput tend to be less meaningful than increases in proactive throughput since reactive throughput usually results in more overhealing (barring a fight like Malkorok) while proactive throughput only results in more effective healing. Put another way, the ability to refill a player’s health bar becomes less important as the ability to prevent that health bar from emptying becomes stronger.

    Finally, I think that Discipline Priests will be the only healer able to simultaneously heal and do damage in Legion. Do you think this will cause problems? Would the above graphs be different if one class was scaling based upon damage output while the others scaled based upon healing throughput?

    • Dedralie says:

      Hey Nov, this is a great series of questions/thoughts to respond to, but I’m a little swamped today with Diablo3 I mean preparing for a podcast appearance, so I’ll come back and discuss this with you when I’ve had a chance to think about it 🙂

    • Dedralie says:

      Okay, hi again 🙂

      I think the way players will approach Versatility will remain similar to the way we approach it now – as little as possible, and with much grumbling when we get “stuck” with it on our gear. While our survivability may go up a little bit from being “stuck” with it more often, I don’t think it will be enough of an effect to really matter. This is something I can look at in more detail when we start getting a better picture of how stats are allocated on items, though.

      Noting that my track record on this issue is a little iffy, haha, it looks like absorbs are going to be a much smaller part of the game in Legion than they have been in the past. Power Word: Shield has a 6 second CD (though there is a cooldown that lets Disc spam PW:S with no cooldown, but this only lasts 8 seconds, so a max of 8 PW:S if the Disc stacks Haste, and that can only be activated every 90sec IIRC), and Clarity of Will has always been too slow to really stack on a raid. Spirit Shell and Divine Aegis are gone. Holy Paladins don’t provide absorbs with every heal anymore, as their Mastery has changed. I think we can all be at least a little optimistic about this – the devs noted back at the start of Warlords that absorbs have been a problem they’re struggling to solve, and it looks like they’ve come to the conclusion that absorbs just have to be almost impossible to use in a “blanket” fashion. It’s one I agree with. Of course there’s still room for artifacts or legendaries to screw with this, but I think the devs are really keen on promoting the Atonement aspect of the revamped Disc spec, rather than the absorption one.

      I don’t think the graphs would change for Disc scaling through damage output. There isn’t a difference in the way damaging attacks are calculated compared to the way healing spells are calculated. It’s definitely possible that Disc’s very different mechanics will end up being a problem in one way or another, but I’m not sure scaling is going to be the issue they’ll have – it may just simply be difficult to tune/balance.

      • Novembrex says:

        I also think that people will continue to avoid versatility, but I would like to see Blizzard have another knob to turn for player survival in addition to stamina. Incidental resist was a pretty common thing back during Classic, and the damage reduction was not completely inconsequential (not that I’m advocating for the return of resist gear). If players were able to survive by having more health as well as taking less damage, then health and healing could increase at a slower pace.

        I completely agree about absorbs needing to be a very minor part of a toolkit in order to maintain any semblance of balance. I was horrified when I heard that Weakend Soul was being removed. The posters that were discussing it failed to mention the inability to spam it. That is reassuring.

        I know that healer balance is beyond the scope of the blog post, so I preemptively apologize. One thing that worries me about Legion is that throughput scaling tends to become irrelevant rather quickly. Healing is something you can have too much of because you only need enough to make sure that preventable deaths are prevented. The theoretical healing per second of a class is almost never tested unless a unique mechanic (e.g. Malkorok) is introduced. After all, the classes that shined on Malkorok did not necessarily shine on Thokk (or other encounters, but Thokk was the most “degenerate”). If Discipline Priests are able to do thirty percent of a damage dealer’s damage while doing seventy percent of a healer’s healing (I made these numbers up), then the healing “disadvantage” only matters when the group needs that extra thirty percent. My mind gets bumfuzzled when I contemplate Discipline Priest healing during Feast of Souls.

        I concur that removing scaling mana regeneration is probably healthy for the game. It was something that Blizzard effectively did on the resist fights of old, and those were some of the more intensive fights to heal. Ultimately though, I think that more linear scaling is going to be necessary in order to keep healers from winding up in the same situation at the end of every tier. If a fight needs X healers, one healer will almost always be on the bench the moment the fight only needs (X-1). If players obtain massive power increases within a tier, then the raid will almost certainly hit (X-1) in a short period of time. There are many other reasons why I think linear increases in power are necessary, but my response is already becoming overlong. Thank you for the analysis, and I look forward to reading more of your blog posts in the future.

      • Yunzi says:

        The Doomsayer artifact trait combined with relics increases the Rapture duration to 11 to 14 seconds. The shields during Rapture can be used in any number of ways since Weakened Soul is gone – Power Word: Shield can be spammed on the tank, the shields can be blanketed on the raid, or they can be used on just a few players if a small group is taking a big damage burst. Since atonement buffs will mean several players are always receiving healing from the Disc priest under regular circumstances, Rapture’s most notable function is as a major tank healing CD on a 90 second cooldown, especially important since Pain Suppression’s CD has been increased to 4.5 minutes with an artifact trait. Also, since Clarity of Will competes against the underwhelming Cascade and Halo on Tier 90, it can easily be selected and used for periods of high tank damage, while the Disc switches back to standard atonement healing subsequently.

  2. kaels says:

    Why, exactly, are we cheering changes designed to make healers scale horribly? Why is this preferable to the much simpler adjustment of increasing the value of Stamina to about 80-90% of healer scaling?

    Gear is already not particularly important for a healer. I can already go into HFC Normal in blues, or Heroic in LFR gear, and do my part if there’s a part for me to do. If I were trying to maximize my raid’s effectiveness, I’d already make sure every single DPS had an item before giving it to a healer; I really only let healers roll because it improves morale.

    Why will I care about gear at all in Legion? Why should I try to max out one healer’s gear instead of collecting five different healers in adequate gear and switching them out per-fight? Why should I ever give an item to a healer, when even they won’t care if they get it?

    • Dedralie says:

      “We” aren’t cheering anything, and my positivity about the change doesn’t impose that opinion on anyone else 🙂

      Let’s assume for a moment that we went with your proposal of increasing the Stamina scaling so that it’s within 80-90% of crazy healer secondary scaling. What would it look like? Well just on a technical issue, we know there is a limit on the size of a number that the game can display and record. That 32-bit business, why Garrosh had to heal 4 times over the course of the fight so his effective health pool could exceed the 32-bit ‘cap’ on 25H. If we scaled stamina as ridiculously as we scaled healers in the past few expansions, we might see player health bump up against that threshold. Or we’d have to have stat squishes every expansion to keep things in line. Which is fine, but that has effects on the non-max-level-game that probably aren’t all that desirable, especially after 4 or 5 subsequent stat squishes.

      You’d also create an expansion where player health quadruples from iLvl(start) to iLvl(finish). Which does a couple of things: It makes early content extremely trivial, as player health pools get so large that even non-tanks can just stand in the bad and live through it. And it means that anyone returning to the game after a break can’t jump in and contribute, because attacks that are designed to threaten players at 4x HP will probably outright kill players at 1.5-2x HP. Whether these things are a concern to you may vary – you seem displeased by the idea that you can jump into HFC in LFR gear and contribute, whereas I consider that to be a feature.

      And from a healer perspective, consider a healer who, like me, raids with the same group over the entire expansion. Whether my gear scales “horribly” or whether the raid’s health scales up so fast that it matches my own scaling with Warlords-style-gear-inflation, it’s really much of a muchness, isn’t it? I’m still only gaining a small amount of relative power over the course of the expansion.

      For a healer who raids casually, or maybe takes breaks and misses a tier of content, though, their ability to resume the game doing the relevant end-game content would be severely hampered by this new Stamina scaling. Not only would they be unable to survive the unavoidable damage, as I mentioned above, but they’d also be unable to contribute meaningfully on healing, because player health pools would be so large compared to their undergeared healing spells that they could hardly budge a bar.

      Raids already pass gear to DPS over healers on a competitive level, and they always would, even if your desired model was implemented. Frankly, added DPS is a better tool for preventing raid deaths a lot of the time than added HPS is. I think that’s a mistake of encounter design and I hope to see it fixed, too, but it’s also a function of *crazy secondary stat scaling for everyone* over the course of an expansion. Your proposal doesn’t do a thing to address the crazy way that DPS continues to scale, while these secondary stat scaling changes may meaningfully affect that, meaning that perhaps we won’t see it viable to drop down to 2 healers in the final raid of Legion because we don’t gain enough crazypants DPS to turn a fight from threatening to *yawn*. These changes aren’t just aimed at healers – they’re aimed at reining in the insane power growth that everyone experiences.

      I personally would prefer a world in which 5 healers in blues come along to a Mythic raid and pass gear to the DPS, than the world we live in now where 2 healers in epics come to the Mythic raid and the other 3 sit on the bench. But I don’t think we’re going to be entering a world where healers always pass on gear. I think we’ll be entering a world where personal loot is more prevalent than raid-distributed loot, a world where healers will still want gear just because it Increases Their HPS, and everyone likes seeing their numbers go up. But I’m hoping it’s still a world where we bring 5 healers into our raids.

  3. Jeffery says:

    Interesting to know they still struggle with this – I mean, this base issue has been a thing for a while, though I know it better from the DPS perspective. Now, with that being said – it seemed, for a while, to mitigate stat splosion, they’d make the next encounter more difficult, different mechanics, etc. to offset the splosion. I mean, the point of progression is to feel progressed, right? I.E. If I can (oh god, dating myself) wump Nefarian, then that should make MC easier right? I think they still try and do this or are they running out of original mechanics? Still though, unless they fix traits and pools to scale at a similar rate, you can always end up in some form of the above situation, even negate the ‘feeling’ of progression. They could certainly try to reduce complexity (they have before, or induced it when it was too easy – I remember trying to figure out mastery…) by removing/changing stats – but giving your findings, I’d think fixing stat balancing seems more appropriate. 🙂

    Aside: “But a lot of players – myself most definitely included – could get a lot more out of practicing their class (or improving their UI or reading a boss guide) than out of running to sims every time they get a new item and working out whether they should change their enchants.” – Favourite Line from this post.

  4. Aanzeijar says:

    I see your graphs, but I don’t agree on your conclusion. My conclusion would be: Free item levels are a shoddy nerf mechanism for healers.

    The 745 max item level is not helpful. The real breakpoints should be: What ilvl has a raid when arriving at their endgame. Since I raided heroic this addon, for me this would be 712 when we got to Archimonde (very casually I might add). For mythic, look for the point where the guild gets blocked for a significant time while having most of the gear from the available item level. I looked at a few random world ~300 guilds, and all of them got to Velhari by the end of august and slowed down to 1 boss per 2-6 weeks. From the samples of their warcraft logs, they all were in the vicinity of 723-726 during that crawl.

    These are the gear levels that matter. I don’t care about 745. If you ever get to that level, you are done with the content anyway, and have been for several months.

    From your charts, the power levels at these ilvls are 200/250% overall, and 70/90% without Int/Stam. That looks a lot healthier than the 400% implied. The projected power levels in Legion go down to 150/210%.

    I’d argue that stat inflation kinda works for dps. For healers it’s terrible though. Every detrimental effect that you get for overgearing farm content is suddenly exaggerated or even shifted to progress.

    If they want to fix that for Legion, slower or faster growth will not help. They’ll have to come up with a nerf mechanism that actually eases up on healers without providing incentive for fewer healers. Maybe have the legendary weapons auto shield targets with an internal cd, so that more healers = more shields. Or make combat rezzes dependant on healer size instead of raid size, and provide extra combat rezzes as nerf. When tying that to the legendary weapons the dps can still have their raw numbers.

    • Dedralie says:

      I most definitely agree that free item levels are a negative experience for healers. I’d argue they are a negative experience for the game as a whole, despite the fun of being a DPS and watching your numbers grow and grow. Part of what makes healing less fun is this power growth across the entire raid.

      That said, I think it is a little unfair to people who are still progressing in Mythic HFC to declare their experiences now as irrelevant. Developers shouldn’t be making decisions on the basis of the top 300 guilds alone. And this still does lend to a problem for healers on farm content as there is less and less for them to do, at a rate that I do not believe is really reasonable.

      I do take your point that progression occurs at a more sane level of healer scaling for the best guilds, and it is a good one.

      I think the healer problem is very hard to solve, and you are right about just how interconnected it is with everyone else’s power curve. I will be floating some more ideas on how this could be addressed on the encounters and items ends in future installments (I hope – I often get distracted!) – and I hope you’ll come back and be similarly incisive then 🙂

      My main conclusion, though, is more that Legion is looking to change this dynamic quite a lot. I am excited to try it.

      • Aanzeijar says:

        I think we mean both the same thing here. I don’t think the experience of guilds who are right now in progress is irrelevant, but it is skewed by the broken nerf mechanism. Had they not gotten 10 free item levels, the latest firstkills on Archimonde would have had around 730. The devs primarily design for progress, that’s nothing new. A sensible framework for keeping farm/nerfed content balanced just doesn’t exist at the moment.

        As for what to do with healers on farm content, my money is on… Diablo III. A lot of the Legion content feels like it’s done by their fail faster approach. Throw in some ridiculous mechanic, see what sticks.

        I’ll keep looking for your ideas. 🙂

  5. Hateweiser says:

    I have a real concern that the healing will start with a mana struggle game, fighting for spell casts as is the norm. However, since mana will be fixed, as boss damage increases, and I have less up-scaling from my gear, healing will be just more and more frustrating as we wipe to OOM.

    • Dedralie says:

      This is a fair concern, but I hope some of this will alleviate it a little for you.

      The current regen rate of 4% max mana every 5 seconds is equivalent to having about 800 Spirit on gear, or 1550ish total Spirit (remembering we have a base Spirit of about 750). This is about the end of Highmaul/early BRF levels.

      It is a lot more permissive and forgiving than what we usually start an expansion with. Obviously it is less than what we would usually end up with, but it doesn’t feel so strict as to make raid healing unfun in the tests we’ve done so far. Of course I can’t yet say what it will feel like in the final tier of Legion, haha!

      Encounters will have to be balanced around healers having a lot less power growth than we currently do, but I trust the encounters devs to know that. And if they don’t keep that in check they will get a lot of feedback – healers are a very vocal bunch!

      Finally, there is no way our growth is really going to stick to that relative 22%. There’s still Artifact Power and legendaries and trinkets and set bonuses on top of all that. Some of these things will probably target mana as that is the traditional way to, for example, make trinkets that healers will want to take and that DPSers won’t. Others will just be pure throughput boosts. And of course, the change to secondaries – which isn’t even in the current alpha build yet – is experimental and will be tinkered with, I’m sure.

      That said, yes, there is a real risk of feeling like we aren’t growing much in power and frustration due to healing failures. I’ll be looking for that as I test, and I am sure others will too. The devs want a fun healing experience for us throughout the entire expansion, and I think they will be very attuned to this topic. But wouldn’t it be amazing if, at the final boss of the final raid, your raid leader was like “Hmm our healers are running OOM – let’s bring another one in, which DPS would like to sit?” I just blew my own mind, haha 😉

      • Nevarial says:

        Being an amateur healer, at most, I can’t really say much to most of this stuff, but it seems to me, that according to your predictions/guesstimates, healing will be in a better place overall in Legion. As it happens, I myself am thinking of changing my Paladin from a mainly Retribution with Protection on the side to Holy/Retri when Legion rolls around.
        In regards to that “What if?” at the end, consider this: What if, instead of a DPS sitting out the fight/raid or something, said DPS switched over to a Healing spec, as with there being no more dual-spec, instead you can switch between all specs anywhere, IIRC. This is helped by Spirit being gone, so outside of Legendaries and Artifacts, caster and healer gear should be the same, except for some secondaries, but that’s a minor issue, and I’ve always advocated having some of all of them instead of focusing on just one.

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